It seems like a while since I’ve written a post. It isn’t that there isn’t much to say–there is. It’s just that we are a family farm in the springtime trying to get everything done. The pigs are only part of what we do on our slice of the Earth. Here’s a sample of what’s been keeping us busy:
We raise the tastiest, healthy-for-you chickens in Northern Michigan. The secret? Grass. Our chickens, like our pigs, are raised in outdoor pens where they can scratch in the dirt, eat grass, chase bugs (if they are so inclined, which meat birds rarely are), and bask in the sun. This rewards us with chicken that has firm texture, enough fat to keep the meat tender and tasty but not greasy, and a reputation for higher levels of vitamins D and E and Omega 3 fatty acids. We process the birds ourselves right here on the farm. We pick them up off the fields at night when they are not alert. They are handled for processing by people they know, who are invested in taking good care of them. The kill is quick and as drama-less as possible. This keeps the birds from getting stressed and releasing adrenaline and other stress hormones into their bodies–ensuring, again, a better quality meat in your freezer. We hand eviscerate, ensuring cleanliness without needing chlorine baths to kill spilled bacteria. The whole system, from day old chick to the freezer is focused on producing premium quality food for the culinary and health conscious folks we serve. It is labor intensive, but we all work at it together and make it happen. That’s one thing we’ve been doing a lot of these last few weeks.
This past weekend the kids performed in a play with a school group. It was quite a production and they all performed marvelously.
Keeping up with the regular bookwork and management details that go along with running a business is always a challenge for me. Balancing the farm accounts while boiling noodles for lunch and filling sippy cups with milk is probably unique in the business world–though not so much for other farm families we know. That is one of the special challenges of a small family farm: the family. The business involves managing a labor force (at age-appropriate levels) that is not adult in their skills and thinking. They are years in the training mode. The egg collector requires daily reminders. Water spigots get left on by accident when the operator goes to shoot his slingshot at the sparrows. The smallest family members require someone to fill their sippy cups, read them stories, and ensure they get naps. Recently Obama’s Dept. of Labor was set to make a ruling (in the DNR’s fashion) that would prevent farm kids from working on the family farm unless they passed a 90 hour government administered curriculum. What a tragic theft of family, values, work skills, and business training from our children–not to mention the government’s assertion that they are more competent than the parents! Fortunately, due to public outcry, they decided to postpone action until they can gather more information. I’m leary of that work “postpone,” but am trying to keep up with it through our Congresswoman, Debbie Stabenow.
I finally ordered my garden seeds this weekend. Mark made me a broadfork and I’ve started working on fluffing the beds, pulling weeds, and generally getting ready to plant. I always have high ambitions and then have to settle for reality in the garden, but one must start somewhere! I found several carrots that I planted last year. They are doing fine already this spring–much better than they did all of last summer. There are also onions poking up, turnips sprouting, and the everlastingly prolific rat-tailed radishes sprouting.
The pig issues continue to keep Mark busy. Defending our rights to keep our property and feed people good, wholesome food against a not-so-wise and frugal government is not an easy proposition. There are a few well done videos that explain the issues well that came out recently. Russia Today did two videos: Piggycide (hear Dave Tuxbury interviewed), and Revealed. Rep. Greg McMasters talked with Rep. Ed McBroom, who’s been involved with this legislatively all along, and gives you a good picture of the political arm twisting and gun-to-the-head attitude the DNR approached the elected representatives with.